The Difficult Path

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 The Difficult path

The path to victory had indeed been a difficult one for the actor, a path of loss and gain. It was a tale of determination, of just not giving up, of leaving no stone unturned to making his dream come true.

His dream of freedom. Of getting away scot free…

Indeed his efforts and those of his family and well-wishers and all those who had billions of rupees invested in him had begun the very morning after the incident.

Step one had been to outright deny the media outcry that the actor had been drunk while driving and that was why he had lost control and run over 6 people who were sleeping on the footpath. In press conferences and one on one interviews (a rarity for the media hating star), the journalistic fraternity was assured that the actor had not been drinking. How could he? He was on a strict diet and fitness regime for his upcoming film in which he was to play an Olympian boxer. Second of all he was not driving. Why would he when there was a driver hired for this very purpose? Third after the accident, the actor never wanted to flee the scene. But the driver had panicked and fled and was even now on the run. And the mob had turned on the actor. To protect him from their fury, his bodyguard and singer friend had prevailed upon him to skedaddle. Else knowing the star’s generous heart, he would not only have taken the injured to a plush, private hospital but stayed there till the survivors were pronounced out of danger.

The second step was to hire one of the country’s top lawyers, the kind who charged in six figures for every precious hour of his. What did it matter? The actor’s last four films had crossed a billion bucks at the box office. Plus he earned millions each time he popped up on a daily television reality show.

The lawyer was confident that they would sort matters in the court. After all his high fees were only thanks to his ability of manipulating and mangling the country’s malleable legal system to his client’s advantage. But what he was afraid of was the media and public outcry. If they decided to ignite their righteous indignation, as they did every once a decade and scream bloody murder at this ‘travesty of justice’ and the ‘rich and famous getting away with spilling the blood of the poor’, then no judge would take the risk of pronouncing the star innocent.

What was needed therefore was to get public opinion on the actor’s side. The people needed to forget about his womanizing, girlfriend beating, substance abusing past and see him as a generous, warm hearted humanitarian. Within days a trust was created with humongous donations from the actor and from everyone who had much more to lose if he went behind bars. Day after day, the media was rife with planted stories about the trust helping flood victims in the South, earthquake victims in the North, starting schools and dispensaries in villages, launching campaigns against female foeticide, promoting girl child education and what have you. In a masterstroke,  clothing and merchandise lines were launched with the branding of the trust – not only would these ensure a steady roll of funds for future humanitarian activities but every single article sold would be a walking poster for what a good soul the sadly misjudged actor was.

Simultaneously a sea change was effected in the kind of characters he played on screen. Till now he had made his fortune playing shades of grey – a lovable rogue, a corrupt  cop et al. Suddenly he was a messiah in every film – protecting helpless young children, defending women, a patriotic warrior fighting the forces of terrorism, communalism, hate mongers…

The media’s ability to brainwash and reprogram the masses is absolute as Goebbels had demonstrated a half century before. And he didn’t even have round the clock news television, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp forwards et al.

By the time the trial began, the bulk of the country was on the actor’s side, convinced he had been made a scapegoat, on account of his wealth and fame. They were campaigning for him online and on the streets, praying for him in temples, mosques and churches, demonstrating an otherwise non-existent secularism.

The legal proceedings themselves were scripted to perfection. The driver was still absconding, which according to the defence was a clear admission of guilt. Since his body would never be found, they were on safe ground here. The driver’s family, for whom sustenance and the promise of a good life took priority over their husband/brother’s tarnished reputation, testified that he was an alcoholic and a reckless driver. Amongst the survivors who had seen the car and the driver, one recanted his original statement insisting that the police had got it out of him under duress; he had always maintained that the actor had not been driving. Some of the more cynical observers were heard to comment on how well fed and dapperly turned out he seemed for an ex-pavement dweller. The other witness had conveniently died of old age a few months ago. Of course as is the wont in cases in this country, forensic evidence went missing, experts prevaricated and pontificated, high profile character witnesses testified in favour of the actor and ranted about how he was being targeted only cause of his celebrity stature. Government pressure was brought on the cops and the prosecutor (the star and his gang had picked the right party to back in the recent parliamentary elections), the judge was gratified adequately but discreetly, nothing was left to whim or chance.

It was a long, arduous, difficult path. But the actor came out victorious.

Innocent with honour and reputation intact – said the judge.

The media, his fans, those invested in him went berserk. The judgement was hailed as a triumph for justice and the victory of goodness and a vindication of a maligned, misunderstood messiah.

The actor heaved a sigh of relief. He had survived his trial by fire.

Not quite…

He was burnt to a crisp when he crashed his car, 5 months later, driving back home after a party to celebrate his latest billion buck hit.

The official story was that his brakes had failed. And he had drunk only orange juice the entire night…

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